Tag Archives: Jessica Lakis

What a Loverly Daze

morrissey_bona drag

And if I seem a little strange, that’s because I am.

What a daze. What a loverly daze. Another snow today. Not the blizzard angry Thor thunder-snow sort, just a stay in and drink tea in jammies with books day. And, if you’re like me, you couldn’t resist some Smiths and writing in your journal. And if you are like me, well, where have you been? And if you’re not, that’s OK too.

Man, is there anything important or useful that can be done on a day such as this? I can’t imagine what or why you’d want to. I was impressed that I cleaned a bit and wrote a bit. Showered.

The journal writing was good. I can be even more personal, random and meaningless there than anywhere. And yet, that’s where I come from. As far as writing is concerned. My first journal was a Tinkerbell notebook from the 1st grade. I always wanted to write. I always wanted and kept a journal. Look in my Mom’s basement. Look in my wooden chest. A whole life in little bound books.  (*Get those back from Mom.)

And it’s not that my journals are going to rival Samuel Pepys’ or Thoreau’s. But they represent an actual thing I have accomplished. But more importantly, that’s where my voice comes from. I can wriggle through every crease in my mind, process it all, write through the thousands of voices I take in and come out sounding something like myself. And that’s gotta be something. For a writer.

Honestly, voice is key. If you can nail you, you can nail anyone. What more is my voice than a grand amalgam of every voice and influence I’ve ever taken in since I was born? That’s a lot of voices. All of those people, characters, movies, books, the poems and songs, the interwebs.  All condensed and focused through the lens of me.

And while, yes, I might fall into your “journal keeping” stereotype. It’s a thing I’d suggest all writers do. It’s the easiest, least pressure way to just write a little, every day every day every day. And journals don’t all have to be the mole-skin or Red Book of Westmarch type of journal. Go to the dollar store. Use a legal pad. Start a new notebook on your computer, on your phone. Just write. It’s not precious or for posterity. It’s for you.

Have a cup of tea. Play your favorite music. Scribble lines in the margins. Keep your favorite quotes in the pages. Write down something you just heard in a movie or on that TV show. Just put some writing on some paper or pixels. You’ll feel better I swear. Even if better means you just want to wallow. Wallow away. No one’s there to judge.

And if you are like me, then remember, I may wear black on the outside ’cause black is how I feel on the inside, but I have a heck of a time doing it. You know, just being me. Go be you, and choose any color you like.






I Don’t Want to Go Out

david_bowie-Modern Love

Never gonna fall

I want to stay in…get things done.

Bowie understands. As usual. And people who love winter can go do their lumberjack and I’m OK thing. Just leave me be. I don’t want to go out. I’m sick and things aren’t getting done that I want to do. I’ve figured out a few things though.

Firstly, my goal of writing an outline in a week was not attainable. I realized this the other day. Someone asked me what was the best way to refine their writing project. So I gave them the old schpiel. Find a few words that describe the basic themes. Words like Love, Revenge, Ambition, Betrayal, Wonder, Coming of Age — the basic stuff we all get: sex, death and all the stuff in between. Fix a genre with one or two sub-categories (sci-fi action/drama). And explain the plot in one or two sentences (A college-kid must decide whether his Uncle killed his father, and struggles with how to react to that knowledge, while tearing the lives around him apart). It’s Jaws meets Terminator. What have you. Basic stuff.

And then it hit me, that I needed a dose of my own medicine on the writing front. I’ve been looking too carefully at the individual parts and the esoteric stuff that I’d lost perspective on my own story, and I need to go back and do this to my tale again.

So, that’s my new focus for this week. Would i’twere so simple. I just can’t seem to feel well. People want me to do stuff and go outside. And as usual, I’m convinced I have walking pneumonia, and I’m slowly dying. But aside from my hypochondria and feeling less sociable than usual (which is never particularly social), I’m becoming less than pleased.

Last year, I put too much on hold because of “life”– not even my own. That made me feel like a good human being for tic. But when my own health took revenge in a bout of bronchitis, I figured I’d outdid the “others” thing. Then there was the holiday we do not mention. And now I’ve gotten back to work, people still want to do stuff like that’s normal in February because they’re insane and my body is in revolt again.

I think the best thing for me to do is stay in my pajamas until April. Going outside makes me sick. Activity gives me asthma attacks. My sinuses don’t like the dry air. So I’m staying in, getting better and getting some things done for me. I just don’t care about going outside. I don’t care about much that isn’t in my sphere of interests on a good day. So, I’m not over-extending what little brain power I have left. Just let me write and play Battlefront and color and leave me be. Also there’s my violin. Jeez, I have a lot to do. How am I’m supposed to take care of outside stuff. I feed myself and my animals. I walk my dog. What else do you want from me world?!

When the spring comes, I will feel better. Although that’s another bad time for the allergies, but I don’t mind it because it’s nice out. I’ll still find ways to ignore people and stuff. But this is what I’m rocking for now. Don’t believe in modern love or winter.


Big and Loud


Just how I like ’em!

Instead of only binge-watching TV series this winter, I have been watching a ton of movies. Which is great. That’s one of the things winter is for right? I got a whole new living room simply in preparation for this winter. I wanted to get snowed in and watch some movies. Score!

Actually, I wondered when BF and I went shopping for TVs if his choice weren’t a bit in the gauche, over-sized way. I’m glad I decided to trust him on that. If you love movies, get a big frickin TV! Duh me.

Anyhow, every time I get a bigger TV, I have to rewatch everything ever again. Well the big ones: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lawrence of Arabia, The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions, Star Wars, Citizen Kane, you get the, uh, picture. And WOW! It’s like seeing the film again for the first time, but better.

You can see all of these wonderful things going on that you maybe never noticed or forgot. I spent a lot of The Shining finding continuity errors in Shelley Duvall’s cigarette, while simultaneously registering the full shock of that vision of horror unfold in all its steadi-cam glory. Watching Kane, I really felt how large and looming a presence the character of Charles Kane truly is. Orson Welles is always shot from below. Or in giant extreme close-ups of his face. The end when he’s looming over Joseph Cotton felt so intimidating in the newspaper room. Xanadu felt vast and empty. And I could just cry over being able to really appreciate the depth of field thing…

Movies are just meant to be on a big screen. That sounds like a tautology, but when I was a kid I was watching pan and scan VHS copies of Star Wars! So this is a big deal. Yes, I did have the opportunity of seeing several re-releases and smaller venue showings of some amazing movies, and of course I remember the agony of the wait between Lord of the Rings movies. But, for most of my life, I’ve experienced some of the best films ever all wrong. Finally I can appreciate the films they were meant to be.

The sound helped too. I finally got to feel that shock-wave of Sauron’s destruction in the prologue of Fellowship of the Ring again. Yeeesss. I was giggling at how cool the Star Wars sound effects truly are. And 2001 has awesome sound design! I never knew this! Blew my mind to hear it properly . . . for the first time! It’s sad that I didn’t know this. But now I got to experience it. I’m just grateful. It’s like touching god for a film geek.

Personally, I think TV ruined film for a long time. Visually and technically marvelous films gave way to smaller, less imaginative films due to the technological limitations of home entertainment. But now that just about anyone can appreciate the true intention of films with stunning audio/visual at home, that has effected new movies. Since Interstellar, The Martian, Inside Out, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Mad Max: Fury Road can be appreciated just as well, if not in some manner better, on a TV screen, I’d imagine that has an effect on what movies are getting made. Can’t hurt Star Wars. Heck, they could just re-release the Original Trilogy WITHOUT the later “special” effects added over the years. I’d buy that along with just about everyone.

But it’s not only spectacle films that benefit, necessarily. Although, that’s definitely happening. Movies with careful cinematography and craft will benefit as well. I’d rather see Woody Allen’s Manhattan in all that glorious black and white on a large screen. Not to mention that score! Birdman, Ex Machina give me this vibe.

Hey, movies are what they are because of the format in which they’re meant to be viewed: BIG and LOUD. That’s why MGM made so much money off of Gone with the Wind. It’s huge and colorful with swelling music and dramatic dialogue delivery. There’s a ton to look at and take it. It’s gorgeous and thrilling, big and loud. You know if you don’t dig that sort of thing, you probably don’t like movies.

Heading into February, I still have a long list of films to watch and re-watch. I gotta through my guys Fellini and Kurosawa. I’m actually really looking forward to one of my personal (and I’m not sure why!) films, Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Ok, I love it because it’s perfect. Everything is perfect. The casting, the tone, the cadence, the production design, the music… the lighting. And I like what it has to say. It also makes me really root for the French Revolution to hurry up and happen.

Anyhow, what have you guys been watching or planning to watch? Now’s the time!


JKHOA: What Can I Say?

The Seer - de chirico

One of my favorite images. The Seer, by de Chirico


For two weeks I’ve been posting here everyday except Saturday. Time to take a look at the experiment and get some new plan set out. See what I’ve learned.

I certainly have plenty so say, and I’ve hardly run dry. But, honestly, this has become a slightly more formal version of my journal. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But looking back, mainly I just sat down with some tea and Mozart and started typing without a clue as to what would come out, with varying success.

Honestly, I got more responses from my nearly absurdist posts, with less interaction for the ones that I gave more thought to. I don’t know what that means. It could’ve simply been the day on which those posts were made. Maybe this the sort of thing Google understands. I surely don’t.

Also, I don’t know if it was the Mozart, or the lack of pressure I felt about what I was typing, or the caffeine in this chronic chai I’ve got (I mean the tea. I’m a tea snob. Shut up.), but even the posts I put more thought into weren’t much. I was just really goofing off the entire time. I almost feel a bit of fake. Sometimes when a thing is easily done, I don’t do it as well. Hey, or do I?

Anyhow, so aside from getting through a snowstorm, having the plague and some Nicholson level cabin fever, what’s next for Jess? Well, that’s a deep subject. (Yes, that was a very bad pun.) Dah! Darned if I know.

I suppose I’ll keep up on the blog here twice a week. I’m going consider which days. It’ll most likely be a combination of my stats for each day over two weeks combined with whatever the heck I feel like — probably a strong emphasis on the latter. And as I seem to find it useful to keep talking about myself and whatever happens to be on the brain that day, I’ll stick with that. By far my most popular posts are tagged “Geek”.  And while I also have a high level of nerd in me — I guess I’ll just keep on with my super-nerd/geek self.

I’m not apologizing for being me. I will continue to consider Star Wars, Roman military strategy, whatever video game I’m playing and documentaries about irrigation and flood management in ancient Mesopotamia with equal enthusiasm. After all, what is being a geek if not simply being a rabid fan of “your thing”. I don’t see any conflict between my enthusiasm for Galaxy Quest and that for ancient epic poems. If anyone takes issue with that, I don’t care. I just don’t. Go write your own damn blog.

But how about your book, Jess? Well, part of myself that just has to make that “B” an “A”, I’m glad you reminded me not to let myself slip. I was reading back in my journal to when I was working on it full-time. I’ve also been looking over my old notes, and I got some interesting thoughts from the feedback on the rough chapter I posted, but what I need is a new outline. And that will have to come before another chapter, because I don’t like the next chapter as it is. Let’s make my outline a goal for this week. That should satisfy my self-loathing. And make me happy. Not being disgusted with oneself is generally conducive to personal felicity.

I will post the next chapter when I’ve done the outline. I enjoyed that. I saw its shortcomings with far more clarity.  Possibly with the knowledge that someone was actually paying attention to the thing. Which is really why I’ve taken up the ebook idea anyway. I’ve got all these screenplays that I send out, and sometimes they get a read or something, but generally they just sit taking up hard-drive space.

Unlike Kafka, I did not take up writing with the notion that all my work should be discovered in a sock drawer upon my death. I write to speak to other people. It’s the best way I know how to communicate. So, at least with a book I can “publish” online, a series in which I’m interested and invested in the character and story, and hope that more people will read what I’ve done. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do. I hope they feel something when they read it. I hope they geek out on the reading as much as I did on the writing.

I guess I’m just here to talk to folks, and this is the best way I know how. So that’s probably the biggest take-away I’ve got. I like to write, and I enjoy it when people enjoy what I’ve written. Simple. What else can I say?






JKHOA Pt. 2.4 Being Other People


All portraits are self-portraits.

I don’t know how you make up people, but here’s how I do it. First off, when I say “make up people”, I actually mean create a character. I’m of the mind that writers simply call it “character creation” because it sounds more sane. It’s not. At least for me. But I get into it, so I suppose I enjoy it. Here’s how it goes for me.

Let me make clear I’m speaking of intentional characters. These are the ones I’ve intended to be in the story from the get-go. There are other characters that sort of end up happening because plot, but I always try to give them the love they deserve too. This just isn’t about them. The intentional ones get lots of time. I usually first look for a model for this person. An actor, a performance, an actual person, another fictional character. But it helps me to have a visual model. They may experience some drift over time, but once I “cast” my character in my mind it’s a go. And characters that refuse to find a model are infuriating.

I do the written exercises. I write several pages of their biographies, and I do Syd Field three “P’s”. That is: What are their Personal lives like? What is their Profession? And what do they do in Private? My personal favorite is what they do in private. What one does when one is alone is probably more telling than anything else. Rocky Balboa tells stories to his turtles. Gollum talks to himself. Dexter kills people. Walter White just sits there, thinking. And often revealing what a character does on their own is where some wonderful story telling sneaks in.

Obviously, this requires a lot of thought. And how I deal with it is role-playing. I consider my self as this other person and pretend to be them. I do this normally while going about my daily routine. I imagine what they would say or do in various situations. How they walk. What their speech patterns would be like. How they act and react. And if you ever catch me seeming not myself, it’s because I’m trying that person out on you.

I’ll tell you what though, it’s more difficult to be some people over others. I’ve written so many different people from different times and circumstances, I’m not even going to list them. And, yes, of course they all get a lot of me. But, to my mind, finding what’s “like me” in a character is finding what makes them human, to my mind. It’s what makes them sympathetic. And even a “bad guy” ought to have that. But the worst are the ones that reflect back on “like me” something I’m not overly-keen to see.

My latest fellow is probably the worst of a fairly varied lot that includes both the innocent and the wise, as well as the murderous and distasteful, and a lot of places in between. But I just had to pick a depressive this time. It’s very difficult to be objective with someone who is already “like me” in a way that I’m less than excited to admit. He’s a lot worse off than myself in some ways, and I pity the guy. But it’s like looking at your pores in a magnifying mirror, or trying on bathing suits under florescent lights. Uncomfortable.

So even if my carriage of myself may be off, or I may seem a bit down. Don’t fret. I’m taking an honest look at man who of himself, would have this to say, “Think of me as one who died young. All of my life might have been.” And remember that I’m giving him a lot more life than he ever expected or would have wanted. So, he’s in for a lot more pain than he already has. Torture time! Poor guy.

Maybe if I can pity him, I can do the same for others who may or may not be a bit “like me.”  Maybe I can even find room in my heart for just me.


JKHOA 2.3 I am Beat


Albert Camus

Probably ought to have qualified my announcement that I have the Plague. I call any illness plague because I’m really into the plague. It’s true. Goes back to my childhood and my Dad. I remember being about 15 when he threw Camus’ book at me with the statement, “Read this if you want to understand human nature.” (It was a soft-cover.)

He considered himself a “Beat”.  He had returned from Korea and went to art school in the mid-50s, so that was his era. He explained to me that because he could never learn everything, read every book, go everywhere, and do everything in his life, that he was beat from the start. He tried to give me a better shot than he had.

I remember when he’d play music or a movie, he’d shout in his 1st Sergeant way “Listen! Listen! Listen!”,  “Pay attention!” and “Focus!” at the climatic moments of say: Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma or The Beatles’ A Day in the Life, or at that iconic bone to space station cut in 2001. I found it irritating at the time, but I did develop the habit of listening,  paying attention and focus.

The result has been two-fold. First, I learn fast because I’m paying attention. But dear me, it’s never enough. Now I have to learn everything about everything I learn about. But you know what I’ve realized? I’m beat.

One person simply cannot learn, master and do it all. It clutters the “brain attic” and diverts attention. At some point you simply have to accept not knowing, not being the best and not giving a damn. So you have to give up on some aspects of life, the Universe and everything. You have to choose what matters. You cannot care about it all.

In Camus’ The Plague we find characters quarantined in an isolated port town on the edge of North Africa surrounded by only desert and sea. They have limited choices in the face of the hand life has dealt them, bubonic plague (because sometimes life just sucks for no reason).  Some people use the chaos for their own benefit, some have internal limitations that keep them from doing as much as they could, others rage against the unfairness of the situation, some try to keep up appearances. But eventually an odd kinship grows up around a Doctor and a group of misfits who are willing to put themselves out there in whatever capacity they have to fight for the life of their town and its people.

My favorite character is M. Grand. Grand is a low-level civil servant, but the only person still willing to do his job after all the other officials have either fled or died. He keeps all of the statistics by neighborhood, issues necessary permits and generally keeps the town running.  All while continuing his secret labor, working on his great novel. He carefully re-writes its first sentence every day. He tells the Doctor that he’s even gone back to the original Latin roots of words to get at their essence. His apartment, bereft of love since his wife left him, is full of his notes for his life’s work. His dream is that one day he’ll submit to a publisher, that publisher will complete his manuscript (apparently aloud to a room of rapt listeners), stand, and declare “Gentlemen, hats off!”

Of course, Grand is taken with the plague. And he burns all of his manuscript and notes. It is the low-point of the book. But he is given the first of a new serum, and he lives. And he continues his book.

Of course, the Doctor, the hero, who has coordinated every effort and done all he could, watches many tearful reunions after the quarantine on the town is lifted. But there will be none for him. His wife, who’d been sent away to a medical facility before the book began, has died. No tearful reunions. No life’s ambitions renewed. Just his work.

Pay attention. This is important. Listen. We’re all beat from the start. We all live under the sword. Focus on what you can and must do. Learn whatever you can while you still have time. Never burn your manuscript. Ultimately you do not know. None of us do. We may all be beat, but go down swinging.




Jess Kicks Her Own Ass Pt. 1.3

Memoirs of a Traveler: In the Beginning

by,  Jessica Lakis


Look on my works…

Chapter 1: I Slept and Am Awoken

The midday sun assaulted my eyelids. They submitted and shut. The sun burrowed through them into my brain. I think the beer at The Drunken Barleyman must have been stronger last night. Maybe I if I just slept…

The elbow of Mec, my esteemed colleague, in my ribs, “The contract! Where is it?” I felt his spit in my ear.

I blindly laid my hand out on the table in front, put my hand on the document, passed it to him, stuck my hands into my waistband, and tried again.

“And the precedent! Keep your eyes open! If you at least pretended to be interested in your work you’d get on better, you know.”

His concern was always touching. I couldn’t ever ask him to stop. Gods forbid I should stop someone from doing what makes them happy. I pried my eyes open enough to be struck blind, but managed to again supply Mec with the documents.

The day was hot, and the morning’s cases were typical — contractual disputes over property or marriage, but usually both. But Mec was a predator. He pounced on each as fresh prey to feed his ambition and reputation. I suppose I admired that. He could care so much about something so small. That’s most likely why I worked for him. He also knew my habits, and he paid.

This morning the object of the hunt was some poor sod-tiller. The man probably didn’t know his seal from the King’s. But he relented before Mec’s attack. He identified the seal on the contract as his own. Fines were settled. The farmer shuffled out of the courtyard with his head down.

Mec wedged his body onto the bench next to mine. “Excellent breakfast!” Evidently onions. “Now the feast!”

“Feast?” I asked. I pitied his fleshy palms for being so rigorously submitted to the moist contact of one another. I saved no pity for my own flesh, to which he painfully transferred some of that red and sweat via my back.

“The Foreigner, Jackal! The Foreigner!” I’m not really sure how I had acquired the appellation of “Jackal.” I’ve born other names, I took this one indifferently. That was my name then.

The Foreigner, defended by Mec, was charged with what you’d call treason. Being Mec’s researcher, among other things, it had been my job to run about the City finding the truth of the Foreigner’s character. His crime amounted to being a member of a Northern Tribe during a time of general anxiety within the City regarding that clan. During such times, officials were prone to offer incentives to good citizens for information regarding plots and conspiracies to help focus the distress of the people. Such was the case of the Foreigner.

Afternoon cases promised dismemberment, disfigurement, or public shaming at the least. Today’s promised death. I prepared for a large crowd.

Mec prepared himself with more vigorous fat, sweaty hand rubbing. I was actually a little surprised that the wittnesses against the Foreigner dared losing a limb again. I guess liars also have bar debts. Maybe more than others. I imagined Mec was considering how to best hack them up for the offering. Which chop first and where. He was a crude butcher, but effective with guidance.

The stench of bloodlust. The citizens began to choke the baking courtyard. I looked up and traced the flowering vines along the lintels. Not much hope of shade from the Sun of the Immutable Law in them.

Following one of these tangles of green and life down, I found Her. High. High above me in the benches opposite my low table.

Separate. Apart. Beyond. Her face, no it was her entire self, focused into a beam of intense concern and honest pity. And that soft strong light focused on the figure now presented to the Court. The Foreigner. I hated him.

Life Lessons I Learned from “Civilization”

I promised in an earlier post to enumerate the life lessons I’ve learned from my obsession with Sid Meier’s Civilization V. To summarize: Civ V begins at 5,000 BC, allows you to research everything from pottery to particle physics, found religions, choose social policies and ideologies, engage in diplomacy and war, build wonders, earn great prophets, scientists, generals, admirals, engineers, and artists, and asks if you can “Build a Civilization to stand the test of time?” No pressure. Quite honestly, a game so complex that it not only allows you to, as Spain, use an inquisitor to remove a heretical religion from one of your cities, but then rewards with you with an achievement titled “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition” cannot be summed up in a Wikipedia description.  (Click here for Wikipedia description.)   Civilization, like life, must be experienced.

For the layman, you choose a civilization represented by a leader (Augustus for Rome, Elizabeth I for England, etc.). Each Civ has a Unique Ability (e.g. England gets naval bonuses), and either special units (Legions for Rome), a special building (Temple Pyramids for the Maya), or land improvements (Chateaus for France) that all confer special benefits that will affect your Civ and style of play. There are five ways to win: Cultural (make yours the dominant world culture, AKA “wear my blue jeans”), Diplomatic (be elected World Leader, AKA Money, Splitting, Soldiers, Spies), Science (bugger off to colonize another planet), Domination (capture every Capital while retaining your original), and Time (score-based, ominously ending in 2050).

So, after over 1,600 hours of play, what has Civilization ever done for me? (Aside from deepening my respect for James Burke.) Here’s a quick run-down, and it’s in no way complete.

1) “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”

This quote, ascribed to Eisenhower, and which you will find in-game upon completing the Pentagon World Wonder, best sums up both my experience of the game and life in general. Did you want to play as cultured, wealthy, wonder-building France? Too bad. You spawned next to Attila the Hun, and if you don’t arm up and wipe him out he’ll be the bane of your existence. That’s if you continue to exist after he comes at you. And he will. Or perhaps you went with Shaka Zulu, warmonger par excellence, sine qua non, and other fancy phrases. You rushed up the tech tree to find iron to make your Impi warriors, and oh, The Shoshone grabbed up all the land with iron and built the Great Wall! Or maybe you just warred yourself to the point where no one will trade with you, your people are starving, unhappy, not making science, you’re broke, rebels are tearing up your land and attacking your capital and you’re so culturally impoverished that you’re 30 turns away from any policy that might settle things down. And now the Shoshone have nukes.

Point is, listen to the man who planned D-Day, the biggest plan ever planned in the history of planning. Going into anything with a strategy in mind is great, but you have to be able to adapt. For that you need infrastructure and logistics. There is an old axiom that goes “Amateurs speak of strategy, while professionals speak of logistics.” Ever read Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars? It’s awesome. About two-thirds are concerned with grain and supply lines. That may not  be as exciting as the battles of wit and war, but having the ability to sustain your Civ, to produce that which is necessary, pin down where it needs to go, and get it there in time is the key to success in life, love, war and Civ.

2) Bread and Circuses

This goes hand in glove with the above. Happy, healthy citizens produce more food, science, production, money, culture…and more citizens to do the same! Pay attention to them! An unhappy empire will weaken your military and defenses, leave you broke, your people illiterate, they will starve and revolt, and then you’re playing The French Revolution and not Civilization. There’s a story that Augustus Caesar, after becoming “First Citizen”, wondered why tax revenue was down and production so poor. A census showed that people weren’t marrying, and so there was a population drop thus less taxable citizens. So he passed a law enforcing a tax on unmarried men and women. Marriage rates went up, but the population didn’t increase. People were marrying to avoid the tax, but not having children. So he taxed childless married couples. People started having kids. Tax revenue and production went up. City of brick became a city of marble…you know the rest.

Keep your people fed and happy and making more productive citizens! Have you ever skipped lunch at work and then been miserable and gotten less done the rest of the day? Or maybe you missed your morning coffee (Civ speak: Luxury Resource), had a headache by 11 am and picked a fight with a friend for no good reason? As in life, so in Civilization. If that means postponing your planned invasion of Warsaw a few turns til things settle down, paying off a City State with a desirable luxury, or building a Colosseum when you really want to get started on that Wonder before someone else snaps it up, it’s worth it in the end. You’ll get that Wonder faster, your war will go better, you’ll gain a City State ally in the World Congress and you have more happy productive people.  There’s a possible political angle here, but I’ll just hope you connect the dots properly (no they don’t form a picture of Margret Thatcher).

3) Diplomacy is bloodless war, and war is bloody diplomacy

Backstabbing, a truth in life and the quest for world domination. It’s great to have allies and friendships, but like each individual you know, every leader in Civ has a personality and an agenda. Some are coy and difficult (Augustus!), some are plain-dealers (Washington — voice acted by Bill Clinton, I think), some will try to win you with their wiles then wait for you to show a hint of weakness and pounce (so looking at you Dido of Carthage!).  Allies and friends are great in the game. They’ll offer you better trades, engage in research agreements, go to war with you against a global menace (Assyria you are a cancer that must be eradicated, unless I’m playing as you), defend you, support your proposals, but they want to win just as much as you do. It is a game after all. If your total BFF from turn 25 sees you passing them on the scoreboard by turn 250, dude, they’re coming for you. Be prepared and then wipe them out after they declare war on you. Liberate a city they’ve conquered. You’ll look like the good guy!

So bear in mind, that gaining votes in the World Congress (in which you split, bribe and bully your way to being elected World Leader), building Wonders, and generally out-shining everybody in every way is the object, the more you shine the more hate you’re going to attract. It’s a long game, keep your defenses up, your treasury full, your spies busy, help out those who are down, take the bigger guys down a peg…you’ll do just fine.

4) Punch one class above your rank

Here we will talk about what people truly love: WAAAAAR!  Come on. Why pick Rome or Germany or the Zulu if you didn’t want this? Did you play as Japan just because Samurai also make fishing boats? I don’t think so. Why do you watch Patton once a year religiously? But even if you didn’t set out to play as a Dalek and Exterminate! War will come as invariably as the dawn, whether you seek it or no. So I offer some thoughts on one of humanity’s and Civ’s fave past times.

Firstly, a Civs gotta do what a Civs gotta do. As in my reference above to spawning as a late-bloomer such as France next to am early-game, warmongering jerk such as Attila, you’re just going to have to knuckle down and go for it as soon as possible. He undoubtedly will. But, if you must warmonger, and part of you somewhere wants to, do it correctly.

  1. Do it when no one is looking. If it’s early in the game and you’ve only met Assyria or a frickin’ City State sitting the only iron on your continent, and you need iron for your Roman Legions: TAKE THEM! Then later when you meet other players, you can be like, “Assyria? Never heard of them.”
  2. It’s OK to war for Oil. You can’t always find or keep City State Allies or free land with something you need. So if you’re playing as America and you need oil to fuel those B-17’s (that you will obviously use to protect Freedom and Democracy), you’re going to have to fight for it. But be smart about it. Make sure you’ve got a healthy, productive, well-placed empire and maybe an ally or two behind you. You may want to go for the town the has the resource, but the best play is go for the capital and get the city with the resource as part of your peace agreement. Then you’ve got a capital that is hopefully well-built with a wonder or two, and you can Puppet the other town: all the oil and money, without the fuss of citizen management and extra unhappiness. That’s how Britannia ruled, and Mama taught her American offspring well.
  3. Go for the guy above you. This is where it counts. As I said above, that BFF from turn 25 is watching you catch him up. He’s coming to knock you down a peg. Be ready not only to defend, but take him out. Wait for him to attack and then just pummel the jerk. He thinks you’re weak. You’re a technology or two behind him, but you’ve been playing smart. You’ve watched him building all the Wonders, bossing the World around, as you eyed him up. Slowly building your empire, culture, cities and units to a singular and final moment when you, Rocky Balboa-like come from under to knock him out (so Rocky II, I guess). Now all his Wonders are belong to you! Enjoy it.

There are life-lessons in there somewhere, but I think one of Augustus Caesar’s maxims is apt: “That which is done well is done fast enough.” Like I said, it’s a long game.

And, finally:


This is one of the slipperiest characters in the game. Who can say “no” to Gandhi? There he is, in his hand-woven dhoti, standing by the sea making salt. But do not be fooled. He may look like the man whose face is covered by a million internet quotes about peace and love, and the man starving himself for freedom. But for all his Ben Kingsley saintliness, as with all leaders, this guy wants to win, and he’ll do so by any means necessary.

This is Gandhi’s play style: immediately ask to be your friend, maybe offer some nice trades, then he’ll start asking for “assistance” in the form of money and resources, which you will find difficult to pass on because: Gandhi. Meanwhile he’s building up, building up. He’s still asking for “assistance” while sitting in first or second place. And a couple “No, I’m sorry if this causes a divide between us” laters, he’s Denounced you to the World and then War!!! Gandhi has declared war on you and you’re feeling like the biggest jerk in the world, but he will bring the pain and nukes if he’s got them.

So mind that humble looking fellow. And don’t be afraid to go after him #becauseGandhi. Actually, it’s an ingenious play style and life lesson right there. Heck, live and play like Gandhi and nuke anyone who stands in your way!

Want to play Civ V with me on Steam? I’m Lakiski. Hit me up. I’ll be playing as Gandhi. 🙂

Inspired by the Civilization Rap? Check out more epic gaming/topical/socially conscious raps and general fun on Dan Bull’s YouTube Channel! 

Thranduil Has it All

It's good to be the King of the Woodland Realm.

It’s good to be the King of the Woodland Realm.


The fab four stages of my needing a haircut.

Ladies and gentleman: My Haircut! Follow the gear fab layers my hair gets up (and down!) to as it slowly descends into post-apocalyptic madness before finally groping its way through the fires of Mordor (where it presumably ends up in the toilet after being bitten off)! We are pleased to bring you: The Spock, The Arthur, The Daryl and The Frodo. And, while it pains me that this may be necessary, I’ll link to “The Arthur” to explain.

PS – Currently reaching critical Frodo. I cannot recall the snip of a scissor, the smell of product or what my neck looks like…

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